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Whenever I’m speaking to a patient about the importance of their Oral Health, I always discuss the possibility that there may be a link between the state of their gums and potential cardiovascular problems.
If their gums are in poor condition and bleed readily, it is likely that bacteria present in plaque found in their mouths can possibly enter through the blood stream and set up plaques in arteries that supply the heart. As you can see, possible is the key word here.
There is no proof of a link between poor oral hygiene and cardiovascular disease. In addition, treating gum disease has not been proven to decrease the risk of heart disease.
The link between gum disease and cardiovascular disease is this: some of the types of bacteria that cause gum disease have been found in the plaques in arteries that supply the heart: This can lead to a heart attack.
Question: Does this just relate to the heart?
Answer: Plaques are also found in the carotid artery in the neck. Clogging of these arteries can lead to a stroke.
If there is no proof of a link between gum disease /poor oral hygiene and cardiovascular accidents, is it possible that one is a good indicator of the other? Is there a correlation?
Studies have shown that people with gum disease are almost twice as likely to have heart disease.
In addition to cholesterol, gum disease, cavities and missing teeth are also indicative of possible heart disease.
The plaque in arteries is different from the plaque in your mouth. Plaque in your mouth is made up of bacteria, food particles and debris. Plaque in arteries is made up of deposits of fats and other substances in the blood. These substances adhere to the walls of the arteries and create blockages which can lead to both heart attacks and strokes.
Let us conclude that at this point we cannot say that gum disease/poor oral hygiene can lead to cardiovascular problems. But we can say that there is the possibility of a link between the two.
How About This?
1. Brush at least twice a day.
2. Floss (properly) once per day (See blog “Proper Hygiene Techniques- Part One,” posted on February 19, 2012).
3. Replace your toothbrush when it becomes worn and frayed. This will improve brushing efficiency and reduce the bacteria that are harboured in your toothbrush.
4. Brush your tongue.
5. See your dentists regularly for cleanings. Depending on the ‘state’ of your mouth this can mean every three, four or six months.
Yours in good dental health,
Dr. Robert Axlerad, Brampton Dentist